Wind energy can power much of East Coast, study says

September 28, 2010 By Renee Schoof
Wind Farm
Nysted wind farm in the Baltic Sea off Denmark. Photo by Jeremy Firestone, University of Delaware

The strong winds off the Atlantic Ocean could become a cost-effective way to power much of the East Coast -- especially North and South Carolina, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia, a new study released Tuesday says.

The report by the conservation advocacy group Oceana argues that offshore wind could generate 30 percent more electricity on the East Coast than could be generated by the region's untapped oil and gas. It predicts that wind from the ocean could be cost competitive with nuclear power and natural gas to produce electricity.

The study appears just as new developments are starting to push U.S. efforts to catch up with Europe and China on tapping the energy in offshore wind. Great Britain last week opened the world's largest wind farm, and China built its first pilot offshore wind farm in 2008, using turbines from the nation's largest wind turbine producer, Sinovel.

The Department of Energy earlier this month issued a draft plan for creating a U.S. offshore wind energy program.

"Offshore wind energy can help the nation reduce its , diversify its energy supply, provide cost-competitive electricity to key coastal regions, and stimulate economic revitalization of key sectors of the economy," the study says.

The nation's first offshore wind farm, Cape Wind in Massachusetts, has received all its permits, but is embroiled in lawsuits. Three offshore wind projects are in the permitting process -- one off Rhode Island's Block Island, another off Atlantic City, N.J., and a third off Rehoboth Beach, Del. A pilot project is planned in Lake Erie, off Cleveland.

Opponents say the wind project could alter the habitat, risking , sea mammals and other wildlife. In addition, they say that government subsidies tilt the economics of to give the appearance that they're economically feasible.

Oceana opposes offshore drilling and presented its study as a better alternative.

The authors based their costs for offshore wind -- 10 to 13 cents per kilowatt hour -- on a 2007 study, but it's also the target price that the Department of Energy has set for the next two decades.

"In 20 years we assume we'll use up all the oil, but we won't use up all the wind," said Oceana's Jackie Savitz, one of the authors.

The study concludes that offshore wind could generate 127 gigawatts of power, or 48 percent of the electricity in the top 11 states with the best wind -- which it ranks in order as Delaware, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, Virginia, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Maryland, Florida, New York and Georgia.

The total amount of wind power assumes that one-third of the areas with strong winds (Class 4 or higher) would be developed in the area three to 24 nautical miles from shore and less than about 100 feet deep.

The Oceana study said that North Carolina has the largest offshore wind capacity -- 37.9 gigawatts, or enough to power 12.8 million homes. That's more energy than the state needs -- or 112 percent of its need, according to the report.

It estimated South Carolina could get about 64 percent of its electricity from wind, or enough to power 5.9 million homes. Florida could get 16 percent of its electricity from wind, enough to replace its use of oil for electricity.

The top-ranked states, Delaware and Massachusetts, could get more than 130 percent of their energy from wind power. Georgia, ranking 11th, was projected to get only 3 percent of its electricity from offshore wind.

The report also argues that offshore wind would result in fewer environmental impacts than nuclear energy, natural gas, coal and oil would bring.

Oceana's study didn't factor in any tax credits for wind or a fee placed on emissions from fossil fuels. It found that coal-fired electricity would be cheaper as long as carbon dioxide emissions remain free. If coal plants had to capture the heat-trapping gas and bury it, however, coal's price advantage could disappear. In addition, the study said the cost comparison doesn't factor in public health benefits from reduced emissions of smog, soot and mercury.

While Oceana argues that the country could get more energy for less money from offshore wind than from offshore oil and gas, the calculation is tricky because oil and gas prices vary so much over time.

That variation, however, works to wind's advantage, said Jim Lanard, director of the Offshore Wind Development Coalition, a lobby group formed in July.

"The beauty of renewable energy is that the fuel, either the sun or the wind, is free. As a result, developers can establish a fixed stable price for a long period of time, and that allows them to get a long-term contract," he said.

The first U.S. offshore wind farms will be expensive because they'll have to pay for up-front costs of things such as vessels and other infrastructure, Lanard said. However, the effort will quickly gain economies of scale and bring prices down, he said.

The Department of Energy's new plan to promote offshore wind will mean large investments in research and development to bring U.S. costs down.

"That's what this nation needs from an energy security and an environmental security perspective -- and also national security, so we don't have depend on foreign sources of energy," he said.

Oceana also argued that offshore wind would create more jobs than offshore drilling, including manufacturing jobs. Transportation costs are high for the large turbine parts, and a local market would encourage the development of a local supply chain, Savitz said.

Britain's 100 turbines off Kent have a capacity of 300 megawatts, enough to supply more than 200,000 homes. Britain also has several other offshore projects in the pipeline as a way of reaching its target of 15 percent of its from renewable sources by 2020.

China National Offshore Oil Corp. is beginning to build an off Shandong Province, and other companies are in the early stages or projects or studying the possibilities.

"Chinese wind turbine manufacturers are investing heavily to grab a share of the market," the Communist Party's main newspaper, People's Daily, reported earlier this year.

Explore further: New review delays Cape Cod wind farm

More information: Wind and Water Power Program:
A guide for all ages by U.S. scientists: "Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Science":
National Research Council (science adviser to the government since 1916) report on the science of climate change:

Related Stories

New review delays Cape Cod wind farm

November 4, 2005

A new environmental review for a Cape Cod wind farm in Massachusetts will delay a final decision on the project about a year.

Wind energy companies test waters for offshore projects

June 24, 2009

The federal government on Tuesday issued its first exploratory leases for wind energy projects on the Outer Continental Shelf, the first step of what could be a race to harness the powerful Atlantic winds not far from major ...

Germany's first offshore wind farm begins turning

April 27, 2010

The blades began turning at Germany's first offshore wind farm Tuesday, 45 kilometres (28 miles) off the coast in the North Sea, with 12 turbines producing energy for 50,000 households.

US lawmaker pushes for quick growth of wind power

May 1, 2010

Democratic lawmaker Rush Holt told AFP on Friday that in view of the disastrous oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico the United States should quickly focus on developing wind power along its coasts.

Recommended for you

Microsoft aims at Apple with high-end PCs, 3D software

October 26, 2016

Microsoft launched a new consumer offensive Wednesday, unveiling a high-end computer that challenges the Apple iMac along with an updated Windows operating system that showcases three-dimensional content and "mixed reality."

Making it easier to collaborate on code

October 26, 2016

Git is an open-source system with a polarizing reputation among programmers. It's a powerful tool to help developers track changes to code, but many view it as prohibitively difficult to use.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (4) Sep 28, 2010
Go ahead and do it then. Let's get started.

Just somebody needs to contingency plan for Hugo, Earl, Igor, Wilma, and Long Island Express scenarios.

In order to avoid catastrophic destruction every few years, your entire wind farm needs to be able to fold down and then totally submerge by an amount greater than the maximum wave trough, which for Igor was 50ft, for Earl it was also over 40ft.

Otherwise, the turbines will get demolished by the wave action during a hurricane.


England doesn't get 100mph to 190mph surface lows like the U.S. does.

Also, they need to consider staggered turbine heights. I showed in the past that it SHOULD be possible to double the density of turbines without turbulence issues, by staggering every second turbine's height by slightly more than the diameter of the turbine.
4 / 5 (4) Sep 28, 2010
Better have backup power supply for when the wind dies or will be in deep Do Do.

The backup power needs to be atleast that of wind power generation.

Something the wind folks don't want us to know.
5 / 5 (2) Sep 28, 2010
If it's in the eyeline of Walter Cronkite's estate, it's a no go.
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 28, 2010

The backup power needs to be atleast that of wind power generation.

You also need negative backup, that is, powerplants that you can turn off quickly at peak wind, or you end up wasting good winds because there's no space in the grid for your output.

With the requirement of negative and positive adjustment in the grid, you can't achieve grid penetration of more than about 20% for wind power. You can't depend on the wind, which means you can't use it for load following. All you can do is replace some of the baseload power with wind input, which means the maximum wind power you can install and still use it all is 50% of your average baseload production.

And even then you have to replace most of your baseload generating plants with gas/oil burners to be able to respond fast enough. That means things like no nuclear power or CHP because they usually can't respond quickly.

It also means that other uncontrollable power sources like solar power don't fit in the same grid.
1 / 5 (1) Sep 28, 2010
the maximum wind power you can install and still use it all is 50%

Sorry. That was hastily written. Of course you can cover 100% of your baseload needs with wind, sometimes.

The real trouble is the low running times of wind power. A typical installation with a CP of 25% will generate a high output for less than 20% of the time and remain virtually silent the rest of the time. That means your other generating capacity will run most of the time anyways.

The figures are often misleading. If you have 1 GW of wind and 1 GW of conventional power, and you try to maintain 1 GW of steady output, the wind power will only contribute 25% on average in the ideal case, despite having 50/50 mix of both in capacity.

And you can't have more than 50% of wind in your generating capacity, because then you can't replace the wind power should it die down on you, and you're locked in to the system because you need the fast adjustable capacity.

So, 20% wind, 80% natural gas? How's that better?
1 / 5 (1) Sep 28, 2010
The wind energy needs to be buffered. Some sort of storage plants need to be devised. The more energy the storage plants can hold the more constant the output will be. How can massive peak energy be stored? Electrolysis water into hydrogen and oxygen and later burning hydrogen in a fuel cell will create a constant energy source. Moving some large objects uphill ( in the mountains ) will also store energy into gravitational energy.
5 / 5 (1) Sep 28, 2010

You'll find that the math disagrees with you at least on the moving large things uphill part. The masses involved are, well, massive. Pumping water into large dams has its own drawbacks as well, the least not being the relatively small energy capacity.

And with the hydrogen route, you're looking at a return efficiency of around 1/4 at best. You'd be wasting most of the generated energy.

The most viable solution is something akin to molten salt batteries, or flow batteries made out of vanadium or similiar metal, but the price is extremely high at the moment.
5 / 5 (1) Sep 28, 2010
Yeah...use 4 times as many turbines as you "need", and store the excess energy.

Not only is efficiency a problem, but the logistics of actually trying to compress air, electrolize water, or some other form of energy storage for that much power is incredible. We're talking about storing possibly tens or even hundreds of terrajoules worth of energy on the fly while you have excess, and then releasing it on the fly as it's needed.
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 28, 2010
"In 20 years we assume we'll use up all the oil, but we won't use up all the wind," said Oceana's Jackie Savitz"

By this comment we can assume that Jackie plans on being alive in 20 years, right?
5 / 5 (1) Sep 28, 2010
A bunch of no horses in this bunch, to much Nay for me! Its easy to say that wind won't work because we cant store the power, or we wont know when the wind will blow. What am I supposed to believe of meteorology that focuses exclusively on when the wind will blow, surely we know more about the wind now then we did even 10 years ago.
As for the storage problem, why don;t people look for ways of storing the power in massive energy stations? Whose to say there won't be a breakthrough in technology used to store energy within the next 5-10 years. Maybe instead of focusing on just generating the power we should look to how to store it also.
I understand it will be a long and arduous journey to get away from coal and gas but ultimately it will happen. I believe in technology and our ability to implement change, look at the infrastructure we built after World War II (which we still use to this day).
We need to focus on how to make this work, not why it won't work.
5 / 5 (1) Sep 28, 2010
Add the Kennedy Compound as well. Can't have the Patrician view obstructed.
5 / 5 (1) Sep 28, 2010
Nukes can load follow. See current French studies. Discussion on

Disregarding pollution deaths and illness from coal is a sure sign of a coal company shill.

Screw the viewlines of the rich, and the whining of the Luddite ecofreaks. Birds die in vast numbers from other causes. We should ban cats and glass windows, I guess.
not rated yet Sep 28, 2010
A company I read about has invented a way of turning Nat. Gas, fresh water, salt water, and even Coal into clean green hydrogen recovering all the atomic species for resell and use in other products.
not rated yet Sep 29, 2010
It doesn't help that you can predict when the wind blows, because you still can't command it to blow.

When it comes, you have to use it or lose it.

And then there's the tricky part of the distribution of wind speeds. High winds occur infrequently, but since the power of wind is proportional to the cube of its speed, those winds carry the vast majority of available energy. That is why wind turbines aren't even designed to utilize winds below about 12 mph.

Even if they did, you'd still see the kind of on/off behaviour from wind turbines where one day they barely turn and another day they're cranking 80% of the maximum capacity, only to stop for the next 3-4 days.

It's difficult to use that sort of power, which is why e.g. Denmark barely uses their wind power, and instead sell it to Norway or Germany and buy it back when needed. Despite having lots of wind capacity, Denmark is one of the most polluting countries in Europe in terms of CO2/kWh, and electricity there costs a lot.
not rated yet Sep 29, 2010
Nukes can load follow. See current French studies. Discussion on

They can, but then you can't take advantage of the economies of scale involved in nuclear energy, and things become more costly.

A 1600 MW nuclear reactor can't drop down to zero output in just a couple of hours when the wind happens to blow. Even if it could, they won't be allowed to because of the safety risks in thermally cycling the reactor, because of the thermal expansion/contraction rates between the parts that put stresses on them.

And adjusting your nuclear power plant means that you're not utilizing it to the fullest, which means it'll generate less total electricity by the time it needs to be scrapped, which means the electricity it produces will be more expensive.
not rated yet Sep 29, 2010
The usual coalition of con-men ideoloues and the innumerate is trying to mislead the public.
The Thanet wind farm in the UK cost £780million, around £2600kw, or $4,030kw.
The capacity factor there is around 26%, which is what they try to avoid saying, so the cost per everage kw of output is about $15,500kw, and will in no way provide the power for 200,000 homes, save in a gale, providing the blades are not furled as the wind is too strong.
This does not include the back-up, massive transmission system needed and the very high maintenance costs at sea.
It will have perhaps a 20 year lifetime, with luck.
Levelised costs are around 24cents kwh, not including distribution etc.
A nuclear plant lasts 60 years, and using the costs from Flammanville including early model over-runs is around $3670 kwh.
Costs kwh are perhaps 6-9 cents.
After the reactor is paid off, it will run for another 40 years at 2 cents kwh.
They are lying or deliberately trying to mislead.
not rated yet Sep 29, 2010

Well, if your numbers are correct, somebody better start taking this stuff seriously and figure out better ways to do alternative energy, because the "Greens" are adamantly opposed to anything nuclear or CO2, and apparantly would rather live in mud huts and eat berries (can't hunt because of greens and PETA,) rather than use CO2 or nuclear.
not rated yet Sep 29, 2010
Let's say you do setup a windwall, what are the rammifications of altering the windflow of half the continent?

Wind is a technology that is often promoted by oil and coal companies as it appears to be an environmentally appealing prospect, that requires something that the current power generators provide as a backup.

Go nuclear or go home.
not rated yet Sep 29, 2010

The water cycle would clearly be altered significantly by the time you had "optimum" wind power distribution on a global scale.

We know from elementary thermodynamics and entropy.

The turbines disrupt the flow of air, churning and chopping it up and producing horizontal spiral motion of air.

It's not like we don't already have trees and buildings doing similar things, but the key difference is that by the time you achieved optimum distribution you'd probably have turbines stretching tens of miles off shore of every country in locations that currently are not affected by that.

This friction which drives the turbines would clearly produce waste heat in and of itself.

This should result in abnormal fogging events as water vapor over and ocean would tend to be lifted abnormally on the "up" side of the horizontal wind spirals.

This poses a problem for shipping and small craft, if you are going to have these every 100 or 1000 yards in the ocean...
1 / 5 (1) Sep 29, 2010
average chris: As for the storage problem, why don;t people look for ways of storing the power in massive energy stations? Whose to say there won't be a breakthrough in technology used to store energy within the next 5-10 years. Maybe instead of focusing on just generating the power we should look to how to store it also.

well, its clear that you dont know much, and you dont WANT to know much since the NAYs have to do with the physics and engineering of why your energy station in cargo cult form wont work in empirical reality.

engineers know why we havent made as much progress in batteries... including the fact that we are not allowed to use nuclear sources...

in fact if it werent for gullible dreamers like you, better technology, like thorium reactors, would be possible.

but you see, there is no way to get in on that money the way you can invest ahead of political mandates to do stupid things!!!!!

prior to the political mandate, no one would invest, so you can dominate
1 / 5 (1) Sep 29, 2010
the market cheaply...

then when there is a mandate, your sitting on the money.

the classical model is CFLs..
another is petrobras thanks to obama

there are tons of others since socialism allows usful idiots to facilitate such crimes!!!

here is how it works. pick a marginal technology, or method... one that works but is not that good outside of special uses.. say... windmills.

then you invest in windmill companies, and concernes (see italian mob, spain windmills, energy scams)

this is actually quite cheap as the investment in the market is commensurate with that market, NOT COMMENSURATE WITH THE STATE MANDATED SUBSIDIZED NEW MARKET THAT IS COMING!!!!!

its the ULTIMATE insider trading

take petrobras.. they are almost bankrupt. so everyone in the know, invests when its cheap. then the politicos, for some reason they can find, halts drilling in the gulf, while sending social money to the company.

business moves to petrobras, and 2 dollar stock is now 200
not rated yet Sep 29, 2010

That's only the known issues. Can you say those will be the only issues?
1 / 5 (1) Sep 29, 2010
In this way, a poor useful idiot wanting to help the world, helps facilitate the robbery of the people!!!!

that is, the 2 billino given to petrobras is going to end up in the pockets of those socialist investors manipulating the system.

how do i know that they are socialist? well, thats what allows them to give themselves 2 billion through a third party, without the useful idiots fighting for the cause gettig angry!!!

Petrobras preps for pricing of massive share sale Sale could raise roughly $78 billion as oil giant works to fund investments

from bankruptcy, to billions... arent you glad that the unions and socialist and communists arranged that scam by confincing you that if the US drills its going to destroy the world.

but if petrobras drills in deeper water in the same area, thats ok..

maybe you should study and learn rather than chastise us for not wanting to build an edifice with no principals of operation.

then maybe you would help entrepreneurs, not socialist
not rated yet Sep 29, 2010

That's only the known issues. Can you say those will be the only issues?

Well, nobody is sure, obviously, but it would probably cause a bit of "traffic jam" in the prevailing winds, causing either chaotic fluctuations, or perhaps some form of "re-route" in wind patterns at the surface level.

For example, some air may try to move around or over the wind farm in order to avoid the "jam".

Additionally, the friction having heated the air would produce a region of heated air downstream from the farm. This would work contrary to winds from upstream because wind is nature's attempt to distribute heat from a hot reservoir to a cold reservoir.

It's really hard to know what the consequences of these sorts of things might be.

It could ultimately influence steering layers of the atmosphere and alter patterns for east coast hurricane landfalls, or cause excessive drought, rainfall or severe weather somewhere.
not rated yet Sep 29, 2010
They are talking about a wind farm 21 nautical miles(24.15miles) wide and stretching all the way from the tip of Florida to Maine.

Based on information we know from optimal layouts, turbines are best when they are at a 10 to 1 ratio of distance to nearest adjacent turbine vs turbine diameter.

So if you had a turbine on that line 3 nautical miles offshore, and you have 100ft diameter turbines, and you go all the way out, that is a farm 129 turbines wide up the entire coast at every 1000ft in east/west direction and in north/south direction (around 1500 miles).

So we are talking about 1,021,680 turbines (rough estimate).

Any idea what the price of steel, aluminum, copper, and composites would do after this?
1 / 5 (1) Sep 29, 2010
Any idea what the price of steel, aluminum, copper, and composites would do after this?

real cheap after the war comrade...
not rated yet Oct 02, 2010
Yeah...use 4 times as many turbines as you "need", and store the excess energy.

Not only is efficiency a problem, but the logistics of actually trying to compress air, electrolize water, or some other form of energy storage for that much power is incredible. We're talking about storing possibly tens or even hundreds of terrajoules worth of energy on the fly while you have excess, and then releasing it on the fly as it's needed.

When the water is relatively deep, compressing air isothermally at the surface then storing it at a pressure-matched depth would require only fabric bladders. How about tubes 1 km long, 3m diameter, anchored to the sea-bed at a very slight slope? Inflate them with excess capacity and deflate them by reverse driving the compressor in line with the generator. My main concern is anchoring them well enough to the sea-bed, and corrosion in the high pressure bomb, er, pipe from the surface.

not rated yet Oct 03, 2010
"Wind energy can power much of East Coast, study says"

So can unikorn snorts, says a report released by a pro-unikorn group, Snake-oil Merchants' Guild. Similar claims have also been made about dying-donkey-fart-energy by the International Federation of Dying Donkey Merchants.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.